Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Wrong Front Door


Our host in Amsterdam was out of the country so his friend Carlos checked us in. He was  cheerful and very helpful with directions on getting from the Amsterdam Central Station to the apartment - even meeting us at the nearest tram stop and leading us to the front door. We were running late, and it was his birthday, but he did a great job of giving us a tour of the apartment and some local information before rushing off. That was the end of any further five star experiences with this particular Airbnb. Here is the listing: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/664904

The picture on the website that led us to believe we were staying in the black house.
We knew something was wrong when Carlos walked us past the lovely house shown in the listing and instead crossed over to the other side of the street to a non-descript building without any character.

Our actual front door across the street.
 We smelled “bait and switch” and that’s how it all shook out. In my opinion this particular host purposefully misleads his guests by showing the front of the beautiful building across the street and its front door. We were disappointed but it became even more apparent within a few hours of our arrival that our host was not interested in hospitality.

The apartment itself was very nice and did in fact, look like the pictures in the listing (however the washer and dryer in the picture are not connected - nor is the dishwasher) There were a few other things that didn’t work, including the oven, but when we contacted him about the few things that would make a difference in our two week stay he showed zero interest in fixing them. And he reminded us that he is not “running a hotel” and we shouldn’t get used to the service we received from Carlos - that was apparently out of the ordinary. On top of that, our host admitted in an email that he uses a fake name for the listing for reasons that could only be explained by someone who is an expert in analyzing paranoia.

We have met so many wonderful hosts over the three years that it was inevitable that we’d get a clunker at some point, and we did. But as we always remind ourselves, “it is not what happens to you that is important, but it’s how you respond to it.” And the knowledge that we had other great Airbnbs booked down the road helped, too. So there you go. I got it off my chest and I feel better for it.

Our goal in Amsterdam was to enjoy a city we love - a city we have now visited three times and always find new and interesting things to discover. We also needed time to finish the manuscript for the book so that’s why we parked here for two weeks. The good news is we had a great time and we finished on deadline. Whew!

Opening day of the European Athletic Championships. I am in heaven! I got to watch Yuliya Stepanova, the Russian athlete "whistle blower" compete. She started the whole Russian doping scandal fiasco - a story I follow it closely.
Good times included two days at the European Athletic Championships at Olympic Stadium which was an awesome lead-in to the Olympics in Rio. We also made a stop at the Modern Contemporary Museum (Moco) to see an interesting exhibit of work by the infamous street artist Banksy and some great work by Andy Warhol. Sort of an artistic version of “compare and contrast” two iconic artists of their time.

Frightening thought by Bansky - it could be a Trump campaign poster!
Seems I am always running into Lenin. This one courtesy of Andy Warhol.
Debbie had a long morning at the Rjiksmuseum. That was her version of heaven.
Her favorite portrait in the musuem - the original "spoiled, fat baby child" as she likes to call some people.
Debbie enjoyed a leisurely morning at her favorite Amsterdam destination, the Rijksmuseum. And we were fortunate to have dinner with good friends Jan and Desiree Ohrstrom. We met them years ago when we shared a slip along side their sailboat at Elliott Bay Marina. Jan is Danish. Desiree is Dutch. When they left Seattle, they moved to Leiden, a few miles south of Amsterdam so we have seen them every time we’ve been in the Netherlands.

Not the best photo - but certainly some of the best people we know, Jan and Disiree.
We were also able to host our son-in-law, Gregoire, Mary’s husband, for lunch as he was in Amsterdam on business for the day. It was nice to be able to meet family at the train station - sort of like we lived there. Debbie has often said she could see us settling down in the Netherlands.

A nice afternoon with Gregoire that including a walking tour of the city.
After two weeks in Amsterdam we moved south to The Hague, which is known locally as Den Haag so our travel day was only 45 minutes on the train where we joined daughter Mary and her three children, for a ten day stay at family-friendly Airbnb. This time we took over an three story home while the family was away on their own vacation. Two little boys live there and much to our kids delight, there were toys from the ground floor playroom all the way three flights of stairs to the attic. Mostly legos, marbles, transformers, cars, and other “boy” toys that have small pieces. There was also an enclosed backyard that was a big help in keeping track of everyone. Here's a look before we undid all this tidyness:  https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3351313

The playroom in our next airbnb - it only looked like this for about five minutes after we arrived!
One of the benefits of being Senior Nomads in Europe has been the opportunity to watch Collette, Marcel and Jacques, now 2, 4, and 6 years old, grow up. Mary got called to work on a project near Amsterdam just far enough away that it made sense for her to stay with the film crew for four days … did I mention “bait and switch” earlier? That left Michael and I on our own for a few days, but we managed - especially since we had use of a bike that allowed Grandpa to take the big kids off to the park. The kids were great, and we managed three trips to the beach in between reading books, coloring, playing games, changing diapers and what seemed like endless amounts of eating. And now for a little Grandparent indulgence...

Colette getting the swing of things!
Marcel on patrol. Look out Mooma he's coming for you!
What a tidy two year old! Jacques enjoying his ice cream all by himself.
Any time is snack time! We had such a great time with these munchkins!
I am glad we had this bike to use! I made many trips to the park with Debs and Jacques joining on foot.
If you love the Netherlands but have never ventured outside of Amsterdam, think about visiting The Hague. Although Amsterdam is officially the capital Den Haag has been the seat of government since 1588 and it is home to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. It is also the home of the Belarusian Consulate where Michael made several visits to obtain visas for our upcoming trip to Belarus. Also take a trip to Delft and Haarlem - both beautiful towns.

Paperwork patience, and Paypal gets you Visa every time! We're goin' to Belarus.
In the middle of all this, we continued doing travel planning including our decision to fly back to Seattle in mid-October which meant we had three months to dig deeper in Eastern Europe and see: Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia in the coming weeks. By early September we will be back in Western Europe with stops in Sicily, Florence, Lausanne and Paris where we will check-up on the European grandkids before getting on another Iceland Air flight to Seattle. Yes, that’s the one where you change planes in Reykjavik and have the option to get off the flight for three days to explore Iceland and then continue your flight at no extra charge.
So far we haven’t been enticed - which seems odd for Senior Nomads.

Media interest in our journey continues and while we were in the Netherlands an online news site called Business Insider ran a story about us. Here is a link - Business Insider The editor liked the first story enough to ask us to write an article for them with tips on how we stay within our budget. Here is a link to that story Business Insider. Every time we have an interview or write about ourselves, including the book, we have a “pinch me” moment were we can’t believe we have been so blessed that we can live this crazy Senior Nomad life. We don't take it for granted.

Flowers for the lovely Mrs. Campbell. We are so blessed.
After spending three weeks in the Netherlands we said goodbye to Mary and the grandchildren and caught a Ryanair flight from Eindhoven to Krakow, Poland. We were there 25 years ago just after the collapse of the Soviet Union so we were anxious to return and see how the city had fared. It is a very beautiful place filled with so much history, some good - but mostly tragic. It’s worth a visit. However, after we booked our Airbnb we learned that Krakow was going to be hosting World Youth Day (that lasts a week) while we were there which meant that 400,000+ young Catholics plus Pope Francis would be joining us…..or maybe more appropriately, we would be joining them. Hopefully it will be turn out to be a “blessing in disguise”. Stay tuned.

Good bye for now ...

Thanks for following along!

Michael

5 comments :

  1. You're saying you're not interested in exploring Iceland? Why not?!? I hear it's really nice, and I came so close to traveling there this year.

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  2. Your life makes me tired just reading about it! I guess it was inevitable that you would someday find a really clunker of an airbnb. Glad to hear you're still enjoying your lifestyle and writing about it, too. :-)

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  3. We also love Amsterdam! Next time, maybe The Hague. I've also commented that I could happily settle in the Netherlands. Sorry about the airbnb clunker, but as you mentioned, odds were that you'd get one sooner or later. I am enjoying your blog -- helps me with my future trip planning!

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